Every September I do the same thing – I watch shows that tell the stories of 9/11. I’m well versed in Flight 93 – I’ve watched just about everything I can get my hands on, read books, and know many of the names of those who became heroes that day. I’ve heard the stories of Pentagon rescues and the last moments of those who were in the Twin Towers. I envision the terror in the hallways as hundreds of people are descending the stairways, and imagine looking into the eyes of the firemen who were going the opposite direction. I’ve seen and heard the grief in the survivors’ eyes via television, and feel their pain many miles away. Every year I learn something more, and every year I am amazed at the character that was revealed in America’s day of doom.
I’ve many thoughts, but one stands out this morning.
Crises unveil true character.
Of all the stories of those who put themselves aside and acted unselfishly, there is something in common. Those who knew the heroes weren’t surprised by their final moments. They talked of how their loved ones lived beforehand – giving of themselves in the small moments, in the day to day.
Thinking of others was their mindset. Loving was their lifestyle. And fighting a primal urge to save themselves amidst chaos and mayhem, they let a greater motivation determine their actions, and loved to the end. And we, the world, watched. We were amazed. And grateful.
Our nation’s police officers, firemen, rescue workers, and military are trained to run to the chaos. They feel fear just as I do, but their inner character dares death and steps in and up to the task at hand – to protect and serve in the ways in which they are trained.
I think back to my husband’s training. At first, the Academy personnel knocked the wind out of them. They stripped the men and women of the faulty foundations they had come in with.
Pride. False sense of ability. Selfishness.
They put them in impossible situations, and demanded they perform anyway. But there was a purpose: to make them teachable.
Then, the instructors began to rebuild them. To give them tools and training to survive, take charge of chaos, and to respond appropriately in confidence. They did this over and over and over again.
By the end of his training, my husband was rebuilt. He was a trained observer. He knew what to do in crisis. He was confident.
As we look back at 9/11, we remember that ordinary people did extraordinary things. And we say a silent prayer of thankfulness for them.
But crises happen throughout life. What will drive our reactions?
The way we practice our lives now determines how we will respond to crisis.
Heroes are made in the quietness of soul resolve, in the mundane episodes of repetition, and in the decisions made day to day. Then, when chaos calls, the choice is made to respond, simply yet readily.